coondoggie writes to tell us that NASA and JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have announced a partnership to study the sonic boom. Hoping to find the key to the next generation of supersonic aircraft, the research will include a look at JAXA's "Silent Supersonic Technology Demonstration Program." "The change in air pressure associated with a sonic boom is only a few pounds per square foot -- about the same pressure change experienced riding an elevator down two or three floors. It is the rate of change, the sudden onset of the pressure change, that makes the sonic boom audible, NASA said. All aircraft generate two cones, at the nose and at the tail. They are usually of similar strength and the time interval between the two as they reach the ground is primarily dependent on the size of the aircraft and its altitude. Most people on the ground cannot distinguish between the two and they are usually heard as a single sonic boom. Sonic booms created by vehicles the size and mass of the space shuttle are very distinguishable and two distinct booms are easily heard."